"If it is ever proper for men to kneel, we should kneel when we read
the Declaration of Independence... probably the greatest document
in human history, both philosophically and literarily.”
~ Ayn Rand.
American was raised in the philosophy of the Enlightenment and born in an individualist’s revolution. It was a revolution for freedom – the first country ever, it was said, to give that word full political meaning.
It embraced it once. But sinking slowly into the ooze Americans now embrace, those days are long gone. The ideals once embraced on battlefields both intellectual and military are now denied, and betrayed.
Is there anything left for America to celebrate on Independence Day?
The America that Lady Liberty once represented is now dead.
The symbol that more properly represents her now is no longer an image of liberty. It is their Eagle of State:
There was a time when America’s Lady Liberty, a gift from France in the liberty-loving nineteenth century, represented a world in which the ideal of liberty was expounded, was expanding, and was taking over the world. Her creator, sculptor Frederic Bartholdi called her "Liberty Enlightening the World." That is the ideal that image of liberty was supposed to represent, and once did.
Nowhere represented that ideal more than America itself in her founding decades.
America was born in liberty. In resisting British tyranny, the American Founding Fathers harked back to European thinkers who had first and most thoroughly given voice to liberty—to Blackstone, to Montesquieu, to John Locke.
America was unique. Where other countries had been founded on accidents of geography or tribal history, America was the first country in all history to be founded on an idea: that all men are created equal and are endowed with rights; that among these rights are those to life, liberty and the pursuit of property and happiness; that the proper job of government is not to usurp these rights, but to protect them; that these truths are held to be, or should be, self-evident.
It was exceptional:
The doctrines of Europe [explained Thomas Jefferson] were that men in numerous associations cannot be restrained within the limits of order and justice, except by forces physical and moral wielded over them by authorities independent of their will …. We believe that man was a rational animal, endowed by nature with rights, and with an innate sense of justice, and that he could be restrained from wrong, and protected in right, by moderate powers, confided to persons of his own choice and held to their duties by dependence on his own will.
That was the ideal that gave it birth and the country in all its many imperfections to which the Founding Fathers breathed into life, that the Fourth of July celebration once commemorated. The celebration wasn’t just nationalistic jingoism—July 4 wasn’t just a day to celebrate American independence, but our own as well.
Jefferson was fully aware of the beacon their revolution represented:
May it be to the world [he wrote], what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favoured few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.
Those are the thoughts her Founding Fathers wanted the annual return of this day to rekindle.
That is the spirit the image of Lady Liberty was intended to represent.
That is not what the United Police States stands for today.
In the former Land of the Free, tyranny has been beating back liberty for nearly a century. This year, 2016, it is clear as can be that tyranny has won. Instead of Lady Liberty peeking over the parapet ready to conquer—like the new sunrise of freedom the image at the top of this post is intended to represent—she is now the setting sun of an ideal that flamed, and burned, and has been slowly snuffed out. Euthanased by a people who cared too little to help her survive.
The idea of America lives on. But America as the representation of that ideal is now dead.
Happy July 4th, America.
Cartoon by Bosch Fawstin